Google Pixelbook Review – Exciting Potential

Google Pixelbook Review - Exciting Potential

Chrome OS has been gaining traction in recent years. Being a low-cost option that allows most people to do all their computing needs in a low overhead option, it is no wonder it is garnering a following. Google is not content in having Chrome OS running on exclusively low-end hardware, and for this fall’s lineup, the company is releasing the $999 USD convertible laptop, the Google Pixelbook. Being one of the most beautiful laptops currently available on top of Chrome OS maturing as a platform, the Pixelbook makes an attractive, albeit unique offering to the laptop market in 2017.

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Google Pixelbook (image credit: CGM Staff)

To review the Pixelbook, I did something different than I normally do: I used it as my primary travel laptop, only using my desktop for office work. I did this to immerse myself in the ecosystem and see if the set of tools on the Chrome OS platform—with the addition of Android Apps—would allow for most of my computer needs. Being a newer platform, Chrome OS lacks many of the apps people expect on MacOS, Windows, or even Linux. So to really experience what the Pixelbook had to offer, the best way was to engross myself entirely in the platform.

Before we get into what the Pixelbook was like to use overall, I would be doing this review a disservice were I not to talk about the design and overall feel of the laptop. While the concept of convertible laptops has been around for a while—in many form factors—few achieve the brilliance of what the Pixelbook has on offer.

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Google Pixelbook (image credit: CGM Staff)

With a weight of just over 2.5 lbs. and a thickness of just 10mm, the Pixelbook is near impossibly thin and light, making it one of the most convenient laptops to take on road trips or even just to and from work.

The all metal and glass construction give the Pixelbook a feel of quality, and the subtle touches such as the white section of glass on the back of the screen harken back to the design seen on the Pixel series of phones. It is a laptop that oozes quality and design from all angles, and believe me, using it in the wild will turn heads.

The keyboard is one of the best I have ever used. The backlit, chicklet style keyboard offers plenty of space, while the travel of the keys gives a satisfying level of click that makes it a true joy to type on.

Just below the keyboard is the white silicone palm rests that call back to that white on metal aesthetic observed on the back of the laptop. While a bit odd at first, after typing on the laptop for a while, they provide the perfect amount of comfort without being distracting. They also act as a separation between the screen and the metal body that ensures the Pixelbook stays safe when it is closed up in your bag.

Sitting between the two silicone palm rests is the white glass trackpad. As one would expect (or at very least hope) from a laptop of this level, it is a joy to use. With a great feel and an accuracy level that can is comparable to what is seen on MacBooks.

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Google Pixelbook (image credit: CGM Staff)

While the trackpad is fantastic, the speakers I would only call subpar. Located under the keyboard of the unit, the speakers are good for most standard audio listening, although, with no real bass to speak of, the audio profile experience on the Pixelbook is far from optimal. I will say I like that even when in tablet mode the sound managed to sound clear, without the muffled audio experience I have seen on other convertible laptops.

Google Pixelbook Review
Google Pixelbook (image credit: CGM Staff)

The display of the Pixelbook, while not one of the best screens on the market, more than makes for a fantastic viewing experience. The 12.3” touchscreen has a 3:2 aspect ratio with a resolution of 2400 x 1600. It looks stunning, is bright, and can be used even on a sunny day. If there is one gripe I have to point out it is the bezels. I see why they are needed, giving a place to grab in tablet mode, but with so many moving to reduce this area as much as possible, it is strange seeing Google release a product like this in late 2017.

Under the hood of the Pixelbook—on the base model we tested—is a seventh generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. It is also possible to get the Pixelbook with an i7, 16GB RAM and 512GB storage, but even at the base configuration, it is overkill for what Chrome OS needs. Even with over ten tabs open, Android apps running, and a YouTube video playing, the machine never showed any sign of slowing down. The fact this is all achieved without the need for any level of fans or the Pixelbook getting hot is a testament to the design by Google.

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Google Pixelbook (image credit: CGM Staff)

For IO, Google has granted the Pixelbook two USB-C ports, one on either side of the unit, and yes, both can be used to charge the unit and allow you to expand the ports with dongles. On the left-hand side, the Pixelbook also has a 3.5mm headphone jack, a volume rocker, and a power button.

While the laptop is a marvel of design and craftsmanship, people buy laptops for what they do, not how they look, and this is where things get a bit more complicated. The Pixelbook, as I mentioned earlier runs Chrome OS, and it comes with all the limitations and advantages that entails.

Chrome OS is built on Linux, but Google has built from that one of the most rock solid, stable, and secure desktop OS’s currently on the market. Never in my time using the Pixelbook did I experience any crashes or any fear of getting a virus.

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Google Pixelbook (image credit: CGM Staff)

With that stability and security comes some limitations. Until recently Chrome OS had a very limited series of apps. Basically, it just a way to run the Chrome web browser. It did that job very well, and if you live your life based on the Google apps ecosystem, you will be able to do most of your everyday tasks. Sadly, this also means if you are a creator that needs more advanced tools such as video or audio editing software, you may be out of luck.

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Google Pixelbook (image credit: CGM Staff)

Google claims the Pixelbook has a 10hour battery, and in testing, running Android and having a series of tabs open in Chrome, I would say that is close to accurate. I managed on average 9-10 hours on a single charge, and while this dipped while running more advanced Android games, I would say I was impressed with how the Pixelbook faired, especially considering its svelte form factor.

Games that did work, worked well, I tested a series of games throughout working with the Pixelbook. Games like Minecraft: Story Mode, and The Banner Saga worked perfectly. There was no sign of stuttering, graphical glitches or even slow down. If I was not aware I was playing Android games, I would be sure I was working on a native application. Google has done some real work ensuring these games work, and while not everything worked, those that did, worked perfectly.

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Google Pixelbook (image credit: CGM Staff)

Now, I should mention that the Pixelbook is a convertible laptop, and the hinge Google uses for the device makes it a joy to flip to tablet mode, tent mode, and everything in between. While I did not find myself using it in tablet mode all that often, for the most part, I had no troubles and the OS worked in that form factor. I did notice a few minor hiccups, especially with the Chrome OS touch keyboard missing some of the features I would expect from a modern tablet keyboard, but for the most part, it works, at least for minor tasks.

Before we go any further, we should touch on the elephant in the room: Android apps. With the Pixelbook, Android Apps are now at the forefront of the Chrome OS experience. They help bridge the gap between what Chrome OS can do as a platform and other OS offerings. In my experience, they worked, and in some cases worked great.

Apps—like most of the Google Suite, Microsoft Office, and even Netflix—ran smoothly. They resize as expected, can be moved around, and feel like part of the native Chrome OS experience. Now drag and drop between Chrome and Android apps is currently non-existent, at least from testing, but everything else works as you would hope. It is these few apps that make me hopeful for Android apps on the platform.

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Google Pixelbook (image credit: CGM Staff)

Sadly not everything worked as well as these few apps. Many felt like phone apps or games running on a laptop. Many are in a virtual orientation, some needed to restart to be set in full screen, and some simply crashed when they were started. It is still in the early days of the platform, and I was surprised at how the apps that ran, ran very well, with no stuttering or major issues. but it is clear that developers need to do some work to ensure games and apps can run as intended on the platform.

It is amazing to see how far Google has come from the Beta to running apps like Facebook Messenger or Spotify so well, but it still feels as if Android apps on Chrome OS are second class citizens. There needs to be more work put into making the Android App experience feel more natural, ensure things crash less and allowing apps to work with the native desktop environment when possible.

For most cases, it is just a matter of Google helping developers move their apps over to a bigger screen using the latest tech, but this is an issue Google has struggled with for years. Look at the Android Tablet market to see how that is going. But if they can make it work, and build the Chrome OS Android library, it does make for some exciting possibilities, even just looking at what works now.

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Google Pixelbook (image credit: CGM Staff)

Not to be left out of the stylus-future most modern laptops are embracing, Google made the Pixelbook Pen available. For $99 USD ($129 CAD) you can have an active stylus that, while it may seem like a needless expense, actually expands on what makes the Pixelbook so special. I should mention that there is noticeable lag when using older android stylus apps. The ones that use the newest API’s were smooth and acted as one would hope, but the older models were almost unusable making for a less than ideal experience. For a pen that costs $99, you hope to have a slew of uses out of the box, sadly that is not the case at this time.

While the app selection may be on the low side, the stylus can be used to navigate the desktop and this seems to be the way the Pixelbook is meant to be used. It is a quick and intuitive way to use the OS, especially in tablet mode.

While the Pen is very comfortable to hold, I am a little disappointed Google did not include a place to attach the pen to the unit. If you are not using the pen, you will need to find a place to stow the stylus, as it does have a tendency to roll away when just left on the desk. The Pixelbook Pen does, however, pack a fun little feature: with the help of the button on the side, it can be used to select part of the screen for use with Google Assistant.

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Google Pixelbook (image credit: CGM Staff)

Oh yes, the PixelBook is the first Chrome OS-based device with Google Assistant built right into the OS. It can be accessed as discussed above, and with the help of the Pixelbook Pen, it can also be called by the simple tapping of the Google Assistant key on the keyboard. While I am not a fan of assistance on desktop operating systems, I actually found Google Assistant handy to have around, especially when working and needing to quickly check up on something.

The Pixelbook is a wonder of design and technology, but it also feels like a step into a Chrome OS future I am not sure everyone is ready for. Overall the device feels very well put together, the OS is evolving in the ways it needs to, and with new features added every few months, it is a platform that packs loads of potential. But sadly, potential does little for people who need a feature or application the platform lacks right now.

If you are someone who does writing or spends most of their time in the browser, the Pixelbook could be a perfect laptop for your needs. However, if you are someone who uses their laptop to create, be it images, video, or audio, the platform may not be ready for that—just yet. Whatever your reason, if you feel Chrome OS is right for you, the Pixelbook is the flagship device for the platform, and is the new tech to beat as my favourite device of 2017.

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Google Pixelbook (image credit: CGM Staff)

A retail version of this device reviewed was purchased by the reviewer. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.

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Google Home Mini (Hardware) Review: A Little Helper

Google Home Mini (Hardware) Review: A Little Helper

Home assistants are quickly becoming an invaluable piece of hardware for the modern person. The access to quick Internet searches, music playback, and integration with many of the programs we use on a daily basis, shows how convenient home assistants are. Around half a year ago, Google released the Google Home. Now, Google wants to put more access to it’s assistant throughout your home with the release of the Google Home Mini.

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Google Home Mini (Image credit: CGM Staff)

 The Google Home Mini does live up to the mini in its name. Coming in at only around 2 inches tall and only approximately 4 inches in diameter, the device is small and discreet. The Mini is primarily made of the speaker with a small base attached along the bottom. The unit I received was the chalk colour; which has a white base and a grey mesh on top for the speaker. Visible within the grey mesh are the four dots that signify any and everything the Google Home Mini does. These dots represent when the device is listening to your commands, when it is performing its functions, and even the volume control.

Using the Google Home Mini is straightforward. Just say, “Okay Google…” followed by your request and the device gets to work. Only on one occasion did I find that the device couldn’t hear me and this was when there was already loud music playing in the room. I didn’t attempt to use the device from across any space larger then a room as this device is intended for individual rooms, unlike its larger, full-size cousin.

Using your voice is the primary way that you can interact with the Google Home Mini. Touch controls are limited to only volume control. By touching the sides of the device you can have the volume raised or lowered. These controls were always responsive and it’s a shame that there were not more controls that could be done by touch.

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Google Home Mini (Image credit: CGM Staff)

Having access to Google’s searching capabilities is immensely helpful. Any time I would need to know something, the Google Home Mini could find the answer. That isn’t to say that this device exists solely to be a physical Google search engine. The device has many more capabilities then that.

The other primary feature I used from the Google Home Mini was its ability to make phone calls. At first I was sceptical that the device could make proper phone calls but after getting accustomed to the commands, I never had to pick up my cell phone while around the Home Mini. Call quality was clear for the recipient on the other end and I never found myself struggling to hear the other person.

 For anyone with other Google devices in their home—such as a Chromecast—the Google Home Mini works with them to create a functioning ecosystem of convenience. I could ask my Home Mini to play the latest episode of Stranger Things through Netflix and it would cast the show to my TV through the Chromecast. Integration with my phone was great as well. Being able to ask about the traffic, and then having the fastest directions on my phone was incredibly convenient while I was getting ready to leave for my day.

Google Home Mini (Hardware) Review: A Little Helper
Google Home Mini (Image credit: CGM Staff)

Using the Google Home Mini as an assistant to my day felt natural. Getting the weather and news while I was busy getting ready is incredibly useful. Having something that can tell me step-by-step instructions to some of my favourite recipes made cooking new food a breeze. Having access to all of these features made me always want the Google Home close at hand.

 This was Google’s goal with the Home Mini. They wanted you to be able to place a device throughout all the rooms in your home so that the Google Assistant is only a phrase away. Having a few of these devices sprinkled throughout the house with a full size Google Home as a central hub is what Google aims for these devices.

 There is only one minor hiccup with Google’s plan, the base cost of the device. At $79 CAD, the Google Home Mini is a small investment if you want the device in multiple rooms of your house. With the full-size Google Home only being a hundred dollars more expensive at $179 CAD, the devices don’t seem to be properly priced. As of this writing, the devices are on sale and available for much cheaper. The Google Home Mini is only $39 CAD and the full sized Google Home is only $99 CAD. At these prices, the devices are amazing. For such a low cost to entry, I would whole-heartedly recommend these devices. However, outside of this discount, I have to pause and think if they are worth it.

 The Google Home Mini is a great purchase if you already have a Google Home and are looking to expand it’s use throughout your home or if you want Google Assistant in one room of your home such as an office. As something to pick up on a whim, the price tag makes it harder to justify. If you can snag it on sale, I say go for it.

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Google Home Mini (Image credit: CGM Staff)

A retail version of this device reviewed was provided by the manufacturer. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.

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Google Pixel 2 XL Review: A Controversial Flagship

Google Pixel 2 XL Review: A Controversial Flagship

When the original Google Pixel released in 2016 it was received with open arms by critics and the public. While not the most original design on the market, the Google Pixel delivered an amazing camera, snappy interface, and a stable experience practically devoid of flaws. Unfortunately, the Pixel 2 XL’s launch didn’t share the same tale, with multiple controversies erupting over screen quality, burn-in issues and strange high-pitched sounds coming from the phone when next to the user’s ear. Google has responded quickly with multiple patches and even a worldwide warranty extension, but is it too little too late to sway opinions? CGMagazine might be late to the party, but let’s examine the Google Pixel 2 XL as a brand new user in late November.

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Google Pixel 2 XL (credit: CGM Staff)

Starting with design and specs, the Google Pixel 2 XL stands in line with the competition’s best, going with a near bezel-less design and packing in the industry standard of premium components. The phone screams professional from top to bottom thanks to the matte textured coating on the aluminum body. While the XL size of the Pixel 2 can feel intimidating to wield at the beginning, this texture makes the phone easy to handle even with one hand and provides an extra layer of grip that all phones of this form factor need.

Packed in the chassis of the Google Pixel 2 XL is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor running on Android 8.0 Oreo, 4GB of RAM, up to 128 GB of storage and an incredibly efficient 3520mAH battery. Compared to my previous smartphone reviews and my personal experience as an iPhone 6 user, the Google Pixel 2 XL is simply the best experience I’ve had to date. Users upgrading to this generation of smartphone hardware are in for a treat thanks to superb UI’s, powerful battery life, punchy speakers, extremely precise displays and amazing portable viewing experiences. While the Google Pixel 2 XL may not stand out from the pack in this regard, it still keeps up as a powerful contender worth your dollar.

Google Pixel 2 XL Review: A Controversial Flagship
Google Pixel 2 XL (credit: CGM Staff)

Time to address the display. Despite sharing the same internal specs, the display of the Pixel 2 and 2 XL are made by different manufacturers. In the case of the Pixel 2 XL, LG has developed a 6” Quad HD+ pOLED screen sporting an appealing 18:9 aspect ratio and a pixel density of 538 ppi. The largest complaint about this screen is that colours appeared lifeless, but after Google’s latest patches, the phone has received a new saturation option to boost colours by 10%. The update makes a substantial difference from the initial viewing experience, but unfortunately no update will ever be able to fix the blue-tint issues caused by the screens poor viewing angles.

While the display controversy is the Google Pixel 2 XL’s largest weakness, the Pixel still manages to retain its crown as the camera king. Sporting a 12.2MP back facing camera and an 8MP front facing camera, the Google Pixel 2 provides the photographer in all of us with a powerful tool for any type of memorable moment or occasion. The Pixel 2 XL accomplishes these feats thanks to its ability to gather more light in the sensor during both good and low light situations, while also utilizing a more accurate level of color balance to bring the picture to life. Users can also take full advantage of the Pixel 2 XL’s ability to record video at 4K resolution at 30FPS or 1080P at 60. To smoothen out those captured moments with a lot of rapid movement, the phone uses a mix of optical and electronic stabilization to capture the subject fluidly.

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Google Pixel 2 XL (credit: CGM Staff)

With the phone’s primary features covered, all that’s left to talk about is the rest of the package. Included in the box is a USB-C 3mm audio jack adapter, a USB-C to USB 2.0 adapter, and the charging cable and brick featuring fast charging technology. The unfortunate omission from this box is a set of headphones, but this isn’t much of a negative when a majority of users prefer to buy a better third party option that suits their personal tastes. The charger is the real highlight, quickly bringing the Google Pixel 2 XL back from 0% battery to full within an hour. Considering it took me almost two full days of use to drop the battery to less than 20%, I’d say this charging tech is just as efficient as the phone itself.

Despite the complaints at launch, the Google Pixel 2 Xl is undoubtedly one of the best smartphones of 2017. Where some companies sit idly by, Google is regaining their consumers’ lost trust by rolling out updates fast and improving the overall experience. Considering the wealth of competition offered by Samsung, Apple, and OnePlus, Google still manages to find an edge in this market with its impressive camera and video capabilities. It’s no longer the specs that will get users to buy a flagship smartphone, but their specializations that cater to the consumers’ individual needs.

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Google Pixel 2 XL (credit: CGM Staff)

A retail version of this device reviewed was provided by the manufacturer. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.

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What the HTC Google Deal Means for Android

What the HTC Google Deal Means for Android

Google has announced that it will be purchasing part of HTC for $1.1 billion, in a move that will also include up to 2,000 HTC employees and most of the Pixel team.

In the official blog post, Rick Osterloh, Senior Vice President of Hardware at Google, outlined that, “These future fellow Googlers are amazing folks we’ve already been working with closely on the Pixel smartphone line, and we’re excited to see what we can do together as one team,” He went on to state that “The deal also includes a non-exclusive license for HTC intellectual property.”

With this deal, Google is gaining talented staff that know the market and better knowledge of the Pixel phone line and how it can be improved. Compared to the Motorola deal, this is more an acquisition of talent than a brand, but the state of the Android market is currently in a very different place ensuring Google can capitalize on the purchase far better than it has with past acquisitions.

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Google Pixel

“The fragmented user experience of Android phones and the increasingly mute voice of Google in this market demands them to raise their stakes and engage more with manufacturers of devices to show more ambition and offer a credible vision for the future,” explained John Baptista, Associate Professor of Information Systems at Warwick Business School.

“This deal with HTC shows confidence that Google has the ideas internally to drive this process, but needs to work more tightly with manufacturers to develop a more consistent experience between the phone and other devices such as wearables, home automation, car automation, as well as increasingly work related applications and integration with office systems.

With the Android marketplace so fragmented and only an estimated 13 per cent running on Nougat, it is clear Google has to step in and help the market find its footing.

“Executing its vision in partnership with HTC will set a reference for other manufacturers that use their platform and explain to its users how and why they should continue to engage with Google’s products,” Baptista told CGMagazine.

Both Apple and Google have built powerful operating systems that offer users a deep and diverse experience, yet the market is fragmented and there is no clear, dominant brand that represents Android. This move by Google to move things in-house will help the consumer feel confident that Google will update the devices and present them with the best possible offering of the OS.

The need for Google to step into the world of AR (augmented reality) further exemplifies why controlling all aspects of how the hardware talks to the software is important going forward. Apple has made a giant leap in the space with the ARKit, and while Google does have ARCore, it simply has not generated the buzz that Apple has already garnered in that space.

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Google I/O

“Augmented reality and virtual reality look increasingly to be the future for mobile, so it might be that Google needs to work more tightly with chip manufacturers to develop the hardware in conjunction with their software to deliver AR and VR capabilities,” Baptista said.

While this acquisition makes sense for Google, the advantage to HTC is still unclear. The company has had a solid relationship with Android since the earliest devices—such as the HTC Dream and the Nexus One phone—yet even with all this attention on Android, HTC has fallen out of favour in recent years with Samsung now controlling around 20% of the global smartphone market share.

HTC’s move into VR with the HTC Vive has also not panned out as intended. While the HTC Vive is one of the top-selling VR headsets, HTC has is looking to sell off the division or spin it off into a separate company, according to Bloomberg. It is unclear if this is still in the cards with this latest Google deal, but it is a sign that the company needs major restructuring to find a footing in highly competitive consumer spaces like gaming and smartphones.

On the other hand, this deal could inject some much-needed capital into HTC, giving it the freedom to expand its lineups and give it the credibility it needs to set itself apart from other competitors in the market.

“With this collaboration HTC could be associated with the next main competitor of the iPhone and potentially gain new competencies which strengthen their credibility and value.” he further explains that while it is “not an immediate fix but certainly potential for a brighter future for HTC,” Baptista outlines.

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Another aspect to consider is what other manufacturers will think of such an arrangement. With Google relying on third parties to make phones on the Android platform, it may hamper plans to further expand Android lineups.

“The immediate reaction of other manufacturers may be that HTC will gain an advantage compared to them, but both Google and HTC know that they need to show that their partnership will not threaten the success of their platform and relationships with other manufacturers,” Baptista explained.

“And that instead, [the partnership] will be used to push Android development and product development to better compete with Apple in mobile and other devices. From this development will emerge new standards and technical specifications for better integration of new features such as AR and VR, facial recognition, security etc. and connections with other devices such as more advanced LTE watches. Google and HTC will lead the development of these, which for other manufacturers is great if they can then benefit from this R&D too,” Baptista said.

One thing is clear, this move will help Google push the Android platform in the right direction. With a strong set of hardware and software that is updated and maintained by the company, it will only help Android as a brand and as a platform. Apple being tightly tied to the software and hardware has an advantage in the space, and with this move, Google makes a big step to closing that gap.

Google Home (Hardware) Review: Worthy of the Hype

Google Home (Hardware) Review: Worthy of the Hype

The home voice assistant has quickly become the hottest concept of 2017. First, there was the Amazon Echo, and while it manages to impress 70 per cent of the time, during the other 30 per cent I am left frustrated and wondering why I bother. This is where the Google Home comes in. The new home assistant from the search giant boasts many things, most of which would solve many of the issues I have with the Amazon Echo. While it does deliver on most of the promise, even this well thought out device has a little maturing to do.

Back in the long ago year of 2015, I would never have imagined the hype and marketing that home voice assistants would be getting. This past CES the voice assistants were all the rage. Products were trying their best to find ways to tap into the hype; from smart lights to smart cameras, everything wanted to be a part of the home assistant revolution.

It is out of this fervour for the home assistant that we get Google Home; a small white and grey cylinder with a speaker on the bottom and a white, modern top with some simple Google assistant indicator lights on the top. It is an unassuming design that would blend into most people’s homes—far better than the ominous black cylinder that house the Amazon Echo.

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Google Home

To ensure everyone has a Google Home that fits their needs and tastes, the base of the unit can be swapped out for a diverse array of colour options at a little over $50 apiece.  Honestly, all joking aside, the Google Home is a great looking device and one that would fit well into most home settings.

Much like all modern devices, the top of the Google Home is a touch interface. With these touch buttons you can change volume up and down as well as play music with the press of a button. The panel also houses the four google circles that will let you know about it being connected, as well as pop up when you say the key phrase, “Okay Google”. While not as fun as the Cylon-like Amazon Echo, it does have that sense of whimsy that Google products like to project.

The Google Home comes equipped with two microphones in the top of the device and four speakers in the base of the unit. Now, this may sound like a lot, but compared to the Amazon Echo with its staggering five microphones, the Google Home is actually lacking a bit in that department.

That is not to say Google Home cannot hear you as you talk about it when testing it out, I would say Google Home heard me 99% of the time. When it did not hear me, I was in another part of my house or talking to it over noise such as music. In all honesty, it worked much better than expected, and while I still believe the Amazon Echo hears me better from farther distances, the Google Home far surpassed expectations.

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Google Home

Now on the music front, Google Home is comparable to a mid-to-high end Bluetooth speaker. It manages to have clear audio although the range of the speakers does not compare to what you can get from a high-end sound system.  If you are used to the Amazon Echo, the Google Home sounds very similar. Which device is better is a toss up, and honestly, I would not use either as the main hub for music. However, both devices work perfectly fine for a small gathering or even just to throw on some music as you cook.

But you are buying these assistants to be your hub for entertainment and knowledge, so the real question is how Google Home stacks up in terms of ability and services. Due to the simple fact that Google has services such as YouTube Music and Google Play Music—that the Amazon Echo is sorely lacking—means that the Home has a leg up in this fight. It also has Spotify along with all the home products you could possibly want.

While the Amazon Echo has evolved since it first launched, and now has a slew of services that make it a much more useful tool, the fact that I work in a Google ecosystem makes Google Home just flat-out more useful. The integration with services like Google Calendar makes it invaluable to plan out meetings and set reminders with tools I actually want to use.

Now with all these features, there had to be some caveats to make it a bit more frustrating. At the time of this article, Google Home in Canada does not support multi-user, and while there are ways around this, if you are like me you have a work based Google Account and a personal one, being restricted to only one account is annoying and a major oversight; especially for a device that is meant to be the centre of your home.

Google Home (Hardware) Review: Worthy of the Hype 4
Google Home

A nice feature that makes Google Home an amazing addition to a Google household is the Chromecast integration. If you are like me, you have every TV hooked up to Chromecast. There is something oddly satisfying being able to say to the device, “Stream Castlevania from Netflix” and have it pop up on the TV.

In testing the Google Home also managed to be far more accurate in answering questions, responding to notes, and understanding what I was saying when compared to the Amazon Echo. Google simply has a bigger backbone of data to draw from, and this level of information is clearly on display when comparing the two devices.

With all the good the Google Home does, it still feels like it is lacking in a few features, but Google is aware and as the system evolves it just becomes the more useful tool in your daily routine. Even with these few drawbacks, the Google Home manages to outclass the Amazon Echo in almost every area. Google has simply built a better product and one that looks fantastic while offering a rewarding experience. While home assistance isn’t quite ready for the mainstream, none manage this specialty product better than Google—at least for now.

PewDiePie Dropped From Network And Reality Show Cancelled

PewDiePie Dropped From Network And Reality Show Cancelled

As a result of PewDiePie’s latest controversial videos, the most subscribed to YouTuber has been dropped from his network, Maker Studios, and Google has cancelled the second season of the Scare PewDiePie reality show for anti-Semitic behaviour.

The story begins with PewDiePie, Felix Kjellberg, uploading videos about the crowd-funding site, Fiverr, in which he requested and paid multiple users to say or perform something he thought would be funny for his viewers. The joke went to far for Google and Maker Studios however when Kjellberg requested two Indian men to lift up a sign saying, “Death to all Jews” and subscribe to Keemstar. The video has since been removed and re-uploaded without ads.

PewDiePie Dropped From Network And Reality Show Cancelled 1

“I was trying to show how crazy the modern world is, specifically some of the services available online. I picked something that seemed absurd to me — that people on (crowd-sourcing platform) Fiverr would say anything for 5 dollars,” wrote Kjellberg on Tumblr. “I think it’s important to say something and I want to make one thing clear: I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes.”

After Google confirmed the cancellation of the second season of Scare PewDiePie, a YouTube spokesperson further said that Kjellberg’s channel has been removed from Google Preferred, which is how the platform handles premium advertising. The complete first season of the reality show is still available on YouTube Red for purchase.

The following statement comes from a Maker Representative in response to Variety. “Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate. Maker Studios has made the decision to end our affiliation with him going forward.”

Despite having over 50-million subscribers on YouTube, Kjellberg’s content may now be considered too toxic to other networks. Once the situation dies down, it will be interesting to see if Kjellberg censors his content and who picks up the channel along with its PR nightmare.

#MadeByGoogle Presentation Wrap-Up

#MadeByGoogle Presentation Wrap-Up

Earlier today, Google hosted a major press conference discussing their upcoming smartphone and search engine features. Although news of the Google Pixel was leaked beforehand, the event still explored the new smartphone in detail and explained its specifications. Here’s just a few key highlights from the San Francisco reveal:

For one, Google explored the features and abilities behind their new voice-based Google Assistant feature. Google Assistant is intended to be a personal search engine helper, not unlike Siri. More importantly, it’ll be the fundamental feature behind Google’s upcoming Google Home. Releasing on November 4th, Google Home comes from the same family as Amazon’s Alexa: It’s intended to be a physical personal assistant that uses voice commands to do everything from activate household appliances to watch Netflix on your TV.

There’s also the Google Pixel, which has the Google Assistant as a built-in feature. The Pixel is a cloud-based smartphone, and uses Google Assistant to answer and respond to particularly unique queries: such as photos from a specific month or music from a specific movie. Of particular note is the Pixel’s amazing camera. Clocking in at 12.3 megapixels, the camera comes with HDR+ by default and has received an 89 rating from DXOMark.

As well Google introduced the Daydream View headset for smartphones. The VR set looks a bit more like an accessory in style and is designed to be a light headset alternative. It’s also accessible for users with glasses. The Google Pixel will come with Daydream View support baked in too, although it will not be a Pixel-exclusive. The VR headset will go for $79 when it launches later this year in November.

Will the Daydream View and Pixel prove popular options for smartphone users? It depends. The View is certainly affordable, but the Pixel isn’t quite as flashy as other smartphones. Rather, it looks like it intends to be the Chromebook of smartphones: developed to connect with the Internet, prioritizing ease of use over raw power on its own.

Google Sets A Date For Its Modular Mobile

Google Sets A Date For Its Modular Mobile

Those of you keeping abreast with all things technological may have been watching Google’s modular cell phone code-named: Project ARA. While the idea of a build-it-yourself cell phone may have seemed like a fever dream, Google seems poised to make it a reality.

Announced as Google I/O 2016 comes to a close, Google said the developer version of Ara will ship this fall, while the consumer version will hit sometime in 2017. There’s already a sign up for developers to build Ara modules available on their website.

The unit itself looks to have a base-plate/screen, which Google has spent years refining, capable of support a minimum of six swappable modules, allowing users to create a phone that is most compatible with their usage. Whether that means using a bigger module for a better camera, or more storage space is totally up to you.

Since it’s conception in 2014, Google has been fairly quiet about Project ARA‘s release. The last hint they gave was back in August with a fairly cryptic tweet reading:

If Google is serious about Project ARA then we could see a potential combatant to the mobile market, which many feel has become monopolized. Either way, it could be a very exciting time in the way we buy and use cell phones.


Google Io16 Confrence Details A Hands-Free Future

Google Io16 Confrence Details A Hands-Free Future

Those of you looking forward to the advancement of technological integration in our day-to-day lives will be happy to know Google has got your back.

Google held their massive I/O 2016 press conference, outlining their bold step forward into the future of hands-free management. To begin, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, highlighted a more “conversational” Google Assistant, allowing users to conduct Google searches in a more natural way. Pichai made the example that a user may say “who directed The Jungle Book?” Google would respond: “Jon Favreau,” to which the user could say, “what else has he done?” and the Google Assistant would intuitively know to look up Jon Farvreau’s filmography.

This new technology would play into Google’s newest product, the Google Home. The Home would essentially be an in-depth home management tool. While appearing like a portable speaker, the Home can connect with multiple devices, including speakers and video displays, with further applications down the line to control your home’s lights and temperature. The focus is a hands free living, with Google’s improved assistant also built into the device. Users could do anything from plotting routes before leaving the house, ordering food, managing schedules, etc, conveniently and as seamless as having a conversation with another human.

The biggest announcement was Google’s new Android powered VR platform, titled Daydream. Available for smartphones, VR headsets, and app development, Daydream will essentially be (for lack of a better term) an open-source platform. Google will provide reference designs, however developers will more-or-less have free range to create on Daydream. Ubisoft and EA have announced support for Daydream, as well as several mobile developers.

Google Io16 Confrence Details A Hands-Free Future 1

Finally, out of the conference were a firmware update for Android Wear products, which included more customization options, the ability to use any app on any watch-face and standalone apps that can be used independent of a phone. Also announced was “Android Instant Apps” which are essentially app demos, allowing users to run apps they don’t have on their phones, in order to preview them.

While it’s exciting to see Google moving us forward towards more technologically integrated lifestyles, one can’t help but worry that this is exactly how cyberpunk dystopias begin. First we let Google drive us places, now we’re letting them remotely control our houses, this feels like a slippery slope.

You can check out the Keynote speech in the video below, as well as more details about the I/O 2016 event at their website.